Affective Knowledge and Alternative Media

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Affective Knowledge & Alternative Media

How do we feel when reading alternative media publications? Why do we like some publications more than others? What makes us find them inspiring or depressing, righteously angry or dreadfully boring? When does reading mobilize or motivate us to seek out more information? When does it make us feel the need to act?

Writers and editors for alternative media take a number of different approaches in relating information to their readers. Some argue that what people need are "the facts". In place of obscured, misrepresentative and entirely left out information in mainstream/corporate press coverage, these alternative publications seek to reveal the truth of the situation in efforts to mobilize people's concern.

Other alternative publications take a propagandizing approach. They unabashedly condemn the government and organs of the state, using language that is highly emotive and drawing on feelings of righteous rage or what social movement theorists have called 'hot cognition'.

A third form of writing common in alternative media (as well as corporate media) is the feature story. here information about a larger social issue is related by focusing on an individual or group. These stories are meant to produce feelings--of solidarity, inspiration, disgust--between the reader and the featured person(s) of the story.

Tensions between these appraoches exists with both editors and readers often holding a strong belief in the effectiveness of one over the others. This is in part because each approach harnesses and produces affect in different ways. While no reader has the same experiences, the approach one takes to write 'alternatively' is bound up in ideas about what makes people care.

In this workshop I will begin with a short introduction to the concept of affect and what social movement and media analysts have said about its relation to alternative publications. After time for questions and discussion we will move to a practical writing excercise.

Depending on the size of the workshop, participants will work in groups of 3-5. Each group will be given a set of 'facts' about an event to report on. They will be assigned to write in these three different styles discussed above. When each group is finished we will come back together and read out the reports.

The final part of the workshop will be a discussion on the differences between the reports. We will consider how the different reports made us feel and discuss our experiences of writing and thinking about affect in relation the production of alternative media.